Benny Brown is a skater and artist from Felixstowe, England.
His art’s jagged bold lines, dope beanie donning characters, comedic captions and colourfully palletted scenes make his work stand out from the crowd and caught our attention a long time ago.
Although he’s been a member for a while and in that time we’ve become even bigger fans of Benny’s artwork, we suddenly realised that we didn’t know that much about Benny, his creative process or his skateboarding.
So recently we were really stoked to discover that alongside being a great artist, Benny also puts down some well-defined tricks and lines on his board as he began to post some banging clips of his skating.
So seeing all of this over lockdown we decided to hit him up to have a chat to find out more about him, his art and skating and by chatting about how he lays it down, it became a longer, interesting conversation.
Discover how he came up as a skater in Felixstowe, Ipswich, Hoax,the Before Capture video, Jon Minta, Franklin Stephens, Chewy Cannon, developing his artistic style, becoming an affiliated artist with Depop, skating ledges and rails, getting on the grind with his art career, Dave Davies, Adam Howe, his skate crew – Elite Selling Krew, Seb Braun, creating live art, murals, starting a skate shop, his journal project, George Yarnton, his creative inspirations and influences, Ben Raemers, The Ben Raemers Foundation and his favourite skate videos, photos, spots and skaters and styles of all-time and more.
Read The Benny Brown Fully Illustrated interview below to discover it all out for yourself.
You might not know it. The scene is Ipswich basically, that’s where all the skaters and that converge from the surrounding areas because it’s quite countryside-ish around here.
What was it like growing up in Felixstowe and Ipswich?
It was fucking amazing; it was really cool, we had that skate shop Hoax there when I was really young.
Hoax was a big thing when I was growing up, local skate shop.
Yeah, who skated for Hoax back in the day again?
You had people like Jon Minta, Franklin Stephens, Chewy Cannon was coming down and blowing people’s minds, yeah, he was fairly local to our scene.
Yeah Chewy was on Hoax for a minute
Yeah, Chewy was Great Yarmouth, so he was fairly local.
Do you remember that dope Hoax ad with that guy blasting that massive Ollie out of a kicker?
Yeah, that was Leechy was that Dan Leech?
It was one of the rawest skate ads I’d seen at the time
That’s the thing, Hoax was raw man.
What was Hoax all about at the time?
It was just a local thing. I was quite young. I didn’t know all of that lot back then but I skate with them now. Which is weird because they were like my idols when I was a kid? I’d get home from school and put on their video Before Capture, before going out to skate.
Who had your favourite section in Before Capture?
I’d watch Jon Minta, I’d watch Frank Stephens.
Frank is still knocking about in Ipswich, super underground, still ridiculously good. He doesn’t give a shit man.
You skate with Frank a lot?
Yeah, I skate with Frank often. He’s chilled as fuck but he still kills it.
He Backside 360’d College 6 recently that he did way back in the past. It was posted up alongside his newer one the other day.
I don’t know if you remember Adam Howe and Dave Davies?
Yeah, they were great skaters. Dave did a Backside Tailslide 270 Out at The Mayor’s Office in London.
That was the curved ledge right?
Those two were ridiculous as kids because you’d take them to any spot in Ipswich and they would just shut them down. Any new spot and they would shut it down in a couple days.
They both quit skating for a while but came back and are still killing it to this day.
Dave came out and Backside Disastered this steep transition the other day, it was fucked.
What kinds of spots did you skate back in the day?
When I was younger, I used to throw myself down stairs, we all did, The Felixstowe lot we had a little crew called Soon and we’d skate with a crew called Client, which were the younger ones. We’d just skate these fire station stairs all of the time.
We would skate like a ledge – I’m mainly grind orientated – that’s my style of skating – I love that and skating rails – ledges that’s me, quite happy with that. It took us like 15 years to get a park built in our local town.
That’s a seriously long time.
That’s why we have always gone to Ipswich you know.
So, the spots we have here now are different there are some decent marble ledges and stuff but it’s few and far in-between.
What’s it like to skate in Great Yarmouth?
Great Yarmouth is dire for skateboarding
Chewy seemed to have made the most of it though
I have no idea how Chewy learned to skate because there’s fuck all to skate in Great Yarmouth.
How did you get into skating?
I started in high school. My brother always had a board, it was a piece of shit, but as a kid it didn’t really matter did it?
So, then these older kids who lived down the road from me; I used to see them out of the window skating and I went to the same high school as them.
I just made friends with one of them and they were like, “ah you’ve got a skateboard” and so I brought out my board and went skating with them and started from there when I was about 12 years old.
That’s cool. It’s at that age, you get bored of football and find your own thing
Yeah, you get over the Predator boots and all of that. I loved football but the whole clique of it, I never fit in personally.
What stoked you out at the time – videos or magazines?
I was completely immersed myself, in the whole culture of skateboarding. It was mainly a local thing for me at the start obviously seeing the older kids jump down stairs. I’d be like whoa this is fucking mad, what are they doing?
Go round their house and watch skate videos with them. At that point I didn’t have a clue; we were watching videos like Habitat’s Mosaic.
Mosaic was a good one
Mosaic is still one of my favourite videos; I was upset at Palace for fucking hating on that as I liked it so much when I was a kid.
I was like what…I get that they were joking but you know what I mean, anyway, I know it was just banter.
At that time were you drawing, or was that something you picked up before you skated?
Drawing was one of those things that life throws up. So I went through school, not being inspired by anything I learned there.
Why was that?
My teachers were uninspiring; I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
What got you into art then?
I left school and always just wanted to skate and I realised I can’t skate for a living so I thought maybe I could be a skate photographer.
So I went to college to do art – I studied a general art and design course but obviously I wanted to focus on photography but then I did some drawing sessions, once a week, for a whole afternoon and then they got the ink and brushes out and set up this mad still life.
Where did you study?
At the place I studied, Suffolk New College, the teachers back then were the kookiest and most creative people and they set up a still life of stuff hanging from the ceiling and cut ornaments heads off and stuck them on different ornaments, so you had these crazy things to draw from.
I just remember after one lesson one of the tutors asking me to stay back at the end of class and I thought I was going to get in trouble and they said to me you’ve got an eye here – you’ve got something here, you need to pursue it.
How did you react to that?
It was the first time, I’d been told that I was actually good at anything, so I was like whoa, okay I’m going to stick with this, so then I specialised in Illustration and then fuck man, went to uni, lived in London for three years, went to Middlesex, it was a cool experience, met some really cool people, like my close friend Seb Braun, who’s done some work for Vague Mag actually.
Yeah, I’ve seen Seb’s artwork, it’s great
At what point did you start to put out your art then?
After Uni. Nothing happened for a year. But then I got a commission straight away from a friend who worked at a resourcing company; it was a real corporate gig.
His managers had drawn up these super heroes for a scoreboard that they do, it was a banging commission and it is still the best amount of money I’ve ever earned from a job and it was my first ever one.
So I used that to invest in all of the tools that I’d been taking for granted at college and at Uni, so I realised now I’m out in the world, I have to pay for this and it’s expensive. So I was like right, I’ve got this money.
But to be honest it all started for me when I put this print up on Depop.
Really? What happened through Depop?
Depop was literally a baby it was like a month old
I went on there and thought nobody’s selling art on here but fuck it; I’m going to put a print up.
I think 4 weeks later or something it sold and I was like oh wow!
Then all of a sudden because I was one of the only artists on there, Depop, were like we want to make you affiliated with us.
So that meant when people downloaded Depop I was one of the first people on their phones that they were following.
How many followers did you get on Depop through that?
It’s not what it used to be on Depop, the support for artists is limited these days, so Depop dropped to the background for me and I started working on new things but it made me realise shit, I can just sell things from home.
So I kept following that path, kept creating work, commissions came in and I just have been in the mindset, that as scared as I am to do new things, if an opportunity comes by to try something new or to do something new, I’m going to say yes.
No matter how scary, so that’s what I did, live shows, live paintings and murals.
What have been the challenges with those?
There was this mural I had to do; it was a complete fucking mess, the whole thing. I had to create this mural, live, at a music event, as I’d put these two people in touch, but I kind of got side-lined.
You mentioned opening a skate shop, what’s your plan?
I’m potentially starting one with a friend who’s coming back from Australia.
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I don’t have the know-how but my mate does.
Benny Brown, Boardslide, Barcelona Shot by @arick2k
Who’s your friend?
He’s my friend who worked at the resourcing company who got me that commission, he became so good at it, he started up an Australian version of the company.
He’s been running it for a few years but due to the pandemic, he’s been forced to come home.
What will the shop be like?
It’ll be a skate shop and a coffee shop, with an art gallery to put on shows.
It’s got great potential and it’s something we’d really like to make happen.
It’s always been difficult because when most think of Ipswich, people tend to think there ain’t a lot going on but it is emerging now and there is more of a vibe about the place these days.
Skaters from small towns are always more passionate. Who do you skate with now and what spots do you hit up?
The crew is massive and the crew is tight. It’s always been the same.
The spot is too, we’ve always gone to Stokebridge Park, a skate park in Ipswich.
We’d meet there and talk about where we’d go to skate street. Used to be College, where you’ve got a few stairs and stuff.
There’s this massive set of Eleven, in Wolsey, I’ve never skated it but Frank has Switch Shuvitted it and Frontside Flipped it and other stuff I’m sure.
Frank The Tank, he had an amazing Backside Flip too.
Yeah, he’s still laying down huge backside flips into his 40s. Exactly
Did you ever skate with Ben Raemers?
We were friends from going down to the skate park together when we were kids.
Tell us a story about hanging and skating with Ben
I remember going down the park and he’d be there, Munson would be there and Potter would be there and they would just be pushing him to try harder tricks and he would get so good. He was well known for transition but Ben could skate anything.
What are some of your favourite memories of Ben?
We were just kids, I’d always come back from a skatepark and get bags of sweets and he’d come up to me and he’d be like “ah you’ve been to the shops, you got some sweets Ben!”, and I’d sit there with him and share packs of Haribo with him and get super hyper as kids. Then Munson would have to tell him off.
Yeah I miss Ben.
Same here. So, how did you develop your artistic style?
I have to enjoy it. I’m quite impatient, I don’t want to sit there and do tonal drawings or photorealistic drawings if I want to sit there for days on one piece.
But for me I like to speed through sketchbooks. Getting the ideas down is more important. So I can go with the flow.
I use brush pens, so I can just draw with my arm.
What influenced you to do that?
It was for sure growing up as a kid watching Cartoon Network. Seeing shows like Johnny Bravo, Ed Edd and Eddy and the Powerpuff Girls, that style, those thick lines, I don’t know what it is…I just find it so appealing, and even now I’m watching Adventure Time and Rick and Morty.
It’s always kept me on that vibe I do feel like branching out at times but I think I’ll do that under a different alias – but you do become trapped in it. Sometimes you think your alienating your audiences, which I have done – a few times.
It’s hard for you to know what people want, when they don’t know you and how you’ve made your work and why you made it.
That’s the important thing. That’s what’s missing from art nowadays. You can’t know the person’s work, if you don’t know the person. It’s a reflection of themselves.
Especially my work. It’s deeply personal.
My work looks like they are just drawings done by a child but there are real emotions and reactions in there that have gone on in my life, embellished in there and unless you know me, you really wouldn’t understand.
That’s why The No Comply Network is great because you have a format where people are going to get to see creatives work and get to know the person as well, whereas Instagram just by itself is so disposable.
Yeah, you needs to see all of these things interacting. What’s your favourite piece you’ve made and why?
That’s a good one. Choosing one piece is hard.
I really enjoy going to museums and seeing artists’ body of work – the journey they go through, you understand more about their work
So for me it’s the journal I’m working on the moment – I’m quite raw, I like the fact that I feel that my lines don’t need to be clean, there is an aesthetic to it that’s gritty.
I want people to see my work and say this guy is a professional designer but his lines are fuzzy and wonky.
It’s like yeah exactly…so my journal is the place I can just do that.
It’s there, I am the artist. I’m an illustrator but I see myself as an artist because I think conceptually about everything I do.
How do you mean?
When you start designing artwork for people and you have commissions for people – they have an input and you obviously have to fulfil that and they have to be happy – but for my own work, my journal is where I can sit, draw sketch in my sketchbook, not worry about it and edit it afterwards.
For me that’s a real freedom there to just play and be myself.
So the journal series that I’m working on in the moment is what am the most invested in and enjoy the most at the moment.
It is a diary and I’m learning so much about myself while doing it. I’ve alsoo done some cool murals.
I did a mural for a bookshop, last year I did it with a pencil ruler and some Posca pens, it was massive,
I was really proud of doing that one.
Why do a lot of your characters wear beanies?
I like drawing beanies. I wear a lot of beanies.
I’ve got long hair and I don’t know how to tie it up properly so I wear beanies. I like drawing the lines on the beanie.
It’s simple to draw and it gives it more of an urban edge to the look of my characters.
What’s your favourite piece of art by somebody else?
Keenan Milton’s pro board from the 90s. It was designed in landscape, rather than portrait, I really digged it.
It’s a similar style to my own and I remember seeing it when I started it was called the 11th Yard, this basketball themed graphic, it came out in 96.
Bob Gill’s work where he went around New York, people, scenes, with ink and a brush and that’s what I like.
I like things you can hold, a physical book you can look through.
Also George Yarnton, is one of my favourite artists, we went to college together and learnt a lot from each other.
What’s your favourite skate video and why?
For me it was the Hoax video Before Capture. It would be on my VHS in the player all day.
I would play it on my telly and it woud play from where it was when I watched it last. Leechy, Franky killing it in Paris.
And of course Habitat’s Mosaic video.
It was a lot more than people just skating around; it was a lot different to things at the time.
Colin Read’s Spirit Quest also, that was a great one.
Also Blueprint’s Lost and Found and Dan Magee and Adam Mondon‘s First Broadcast too, they were both great.
Lost and Found came out at the peak of my skating as a kid and it was one of my favourites.
It was stylish and gritty. Danny Brady man.
What’s your favourite Franklin Stephens trick?
Yeah it’s in Ipswich, it’s a waist high gap but it’s long, it’s fucking long and not that high and he Backside Flipped it and snapped a load of boards doing it and he rolled away after snapping the tail.
It’s in a school called St Marks’ the gap doesn’t even look possible to Ollie and somehow Frank’s Backside Flipping it.
It might be in Before Capture you know.
Any other locals whose skating stokes you out?
There’s a few things people from around here have done that are insane.
Jon Minta is probably the most underrated skater in the world and he used to be on flow for Globe and stuff.
He can just Switch Hardflip anything, tore his ACL, fucked his knee and had to skate switch a lot of the time but now he’s built up a lot of strength and if he can do a trick switch he can do it regular, he’s amazing.
Jon is in his 40’s and he’s still just slaying it on a skateboard.
What’s your favourite local spot in Ipswich?
At the moment I like my ledges and benches there are some Rainbow Ledges, in a school, I like to skate.
We used to put them down a three stair and have a good session.
There is another school, it’s got like twelve benches, these wooden ones with the plastic coating on the top, they grind like a dream and there’s like twelve of them, so you can just build your own park in the playground.
Yeah the caretaker doesn’t mind, he’s cool for us to skate down there and he’ll just let you skate.
Also, there’s a new DIY spot in Ipswich, I’ve been there skating there a lot recently, I really like that spot.
Southbank is fucking cool. I’ve only skated it a couple times recently.
Sants in Barcelona, enjoyed skating there had a whale of a time. The Parall-el spot was great too.
Fenchurch St in London, with the marble ledges over the planters, I love that spot, pop a nosemanny on the big one and a backtail on the planter, fees rad.
Blackfriars and Angel, there’s two little black ledges in Angel that I really liked to skate it.
Kings Cross was a good one but that’s not there anymore, Kyron Davis killed it in an edit that I saw, I think Mark Suciu was in it too, it had those wooden benches outside of it; they were outside of the uni or college that is around there.
What creatives outside of skating are you into and why?
I really like Dan Harmon, who wrote Rick and Morty. He also wrote Community which makes me die of laughter.
I really like animation, it’s not something I’ve done that much or share but I am moving into animation at some point.
I always found animation to be a cool thing and such an incredible way of making a story with moving images and animations.
Animation used to be a long process but now with Procreate it’s really speed it up, so for me, it’s really inviting to get into doing animation right now
What’s your favourite style of music?
I draw inspiration from everything. I find the good in anything.
My taste in music knows no bounds, it’s not hampered by genre.
I like country music, I like Hip Hop if I like the tune, I’ll dig it. I’ll look for the positives.
Music is a massive motivator for me. Sound resonates and stirs up emotions it’s the best medium for that.
Who’s your favourite skater?
Danny Brady, he’s got the best, switch mongo push I’ve ever seen and he’s got the best style in the world.
I love watching him skate and he had me in awe since I watched him skate as a kid.
Paul Shier as well, he had the quickest feet. These are all fairly local UK skaters.
Right now Korahn Gayle as a skater and a personality he seems like a rad dude, he seems like he’s having fun all the time, which I really like.
It’s like Jak Pietryga – watching him skate Mile End, just watching him reel off tricks.
Jak’s routes part filmed by Morph was amazing. He was Switch Tre’ing everything. It was at this point when Switch Tre’s meant you were like a black belt street skater and he was doing them like a magician. He’s super underrated isn’t he?
All of the guys I skate with the ESK lads, Elite Selling Krew, that I skate with, the name is from the Phone Shop TV show.
Cool, that’s a funny name
I’ve also got to say Chewy Cannon as well.
The way he switched up his skating from being quite technical and chilling and in the next video, he’s just caning it and skating with loads of speed.
In the Palace Skateboards Tres Trill video where he does the 50-50 Wallie 50-50 it’s just so fucked man.
For sure. Any last words Benny?
I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over. It’s going to be like England’s won the World Cup. One almighty national party and I can’t wait.
I’m really happy to see the direction skating has gone in after Ben, and the rise of mental health awareness in skating now since The Ben Raemers Foundation was started.
Mental Health is something I’ve worked in for a really long time. My best friend James Mills passed away a few years ago.
James Mills by Benny
That transition in skateboarding to being more positive and being more supportive, whereas before that there was some brutality, because it more of a masculine thing, you know the whole banter shit.
I think skating is much more supportive nowadays. Especially since girls are way more involved in skating now too. It’s good to see that skating’s becoming much more inclusive, skating’s always been that individual thing, it’s not a team sport, you do it for yourself, anyone should be able to do it and get some recognition for it.
I find that it has moved in a good direction, allowing more people to find themselves, we all have bad days and we all know as a skater you can pick you up your board and those worries are the last things on your mind.
I’m excited about the trajectory that skateboarding has taken and stoked to be a part of it.